The task of grain handling on the farm and at grain handling facilities can be quite dangerous. Farmers and workers need to be aware of common hazards when handling all grains including but not limited to corn, rice, soybeans, wheat, and milo. Grain bins, in particular, can be hazardous and need to be operated with extreme alertness and caution. One wrong move can result in a tragic accident causing serious injury and possibly death. Potential hazards include: fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation, suffocation from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins, falls from heights and crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment.
Suffocation is the leading cause of death in grain storage bins. Suffocation can occur when a worker becomes buried by grain as they walk on moving grain or attempt to clear grain built up on the inside of a bin. Moving grain acts like “quicksand” and can bury a worker in seconds. Today’s large grain augers can transfer from two to four times as much grain as augers of the past. Your body can become completely submerged in about 8 seconds, leaving you helpless.
Crusted, spoiled, and wet grain can also contribute to grain bin suffocation. As grain is removed from a bin it can “bridge and form a cavity under the crusted surface creating a “void”. Walking on the surface when the crust breaks can cause you to fall into flowing or hot grain. Flowing grain in a bin is going to pull you downward and toward the center of the bin. Once you are up to you knees in moving grain it becomes impossible to free yourself.
The following are a few safety tips around grain bins:
- Keep children out of grain bins and wagons always.
- Turn off and lock out the control circuit before entering a bin; never enter a bin or wagon when equipment is running!
- Prohibit walking down grain and similar practices to make grain flow.
- Provide anyone entering grain bin with body harness and lifeline.
- Have three people involved when you enter a grain bin; in the event an accident occurs, it will take two people to lift you out.
- Break up crusted grain from the outside of the bin with a long pole.
- If you become trapped in a bin and grain starts flowing, stay near the outside wall and keep walking until bin is empty or grain stops flowing.
- Never attempt a rescue by going into the grain yourself. Call 911.